Saturday, 4 June 2011

The Etiquette of Dining: “The Restaurant Inspector”

Fernando Peire, host of "The Restaurant Inspector"

A recent experience at the bar of a South Kensington brasserie got me thinking about the behaviour of both customers and staff in restaurants.

A lady, herself a former restaurateur, uninvited and who plainly had enjoyed more than one since the sun had passed over the yardarm, barged into the private conversation I was having with a friend and proceeded to tell him he was “riff-raff.” A most curious phrase to use but also one that I felt really didn’t have a place in this setting.

Some years ago I met restaurateur and Caprice Holdings director Fernando Peire at a party hosted by a most charming and especially witty American couple. They introduced me to a man who shared their love of fine dining but who, like them, also realised the importance of being an exemplary host and also an exemplary guest.

A man who believes eating should also be a “spiritual experience,” Peire, who has ably been at the helm of such renowned establisments as The Ivy, The Ivy Club and Quo Vadis for several decades, is about to take on a new role. Monday sees the first episode in a television series, The Restaurant Inspector, where he, without the foul language of Gordon Ramsay, becomes the Alex Polizzi of the restaurant world.

“It’s not just about the food,” he states. “If you go to a restaurant and the food is fantastic but you’re made to feel bad, you’ll never go back. But if the food is OK and you’re made to feel good, you’ll become a customer - and that’s what every restaurant needs plenty of.”

Channel 5’s controller, Richard Woolfe, claims that his approach makes “brilliant” television as he’s “like a kid that’s been let loose in a sweet shop.” The trailer for the show is peppered with Peire’s witticisms like “If Lego made fish, this is what it’d look like” and “I’m not looking to marry you, I’m just looking to give you some advice.”

The opening episode features the Alexandra Ristorante Italiano in Ramsgate, owned by a family who blame their lack of business on the recession. Advising them to take the approach of new customers approaching the restaurant for the first time, he prepares them for some pretty drastic changes after having seen the negative reviews they’ve attracted.

On Channel 5’s The Restaurant Inspector website Peire offers five tips that’ll result in a better dining experience. Most are related to the manner that you, the customer, should embrace:
1. Politeness on arrival: Say good evening to the doorman. Be polite to the cloakroom attendant.
2.  Politeness to the staff: The more polite you are, the more the staff will like you. The more they like you, the more love and the better the service they’ll give you.
3. Complaints: If you’ve got a complaint, calmly speak with the manager. Nine times out of ten it’ll be sorted out with too much trouble.
4.   Making a reservation by telephone: Don’t say “Can we have a nice table?” When you arrive, speak to the maître d’ and ask which table he’s reserved for you. If you don’t like it, you’ll be surprised at the reaction.
5.  At restaurants where gentlemen are obliged to wear a tie: Don’t wear one with cartoons on.

It’ll be a pleasure to see Peire’s legendary attention to detail on screen. I certainly hope he’ll also manage to sort out, be they customers or staff, the “riff” and the “raff.”

As Channel 5’s website concludes “Thank goodness there’s a new inspector in town.”

See an interview with Peire at

Watch the promotional video for The Restaurant Inspector at

Alexandra Ristorante Italiano, 70 Harbour Parade, Ramsgate, Kent, CT11 8LP. Telephone: +44 (0) 1843 590595. See

The Restaurant Inspector, Channel 5, Monday 6th June 2011, 10pm. See


Anonymous said...

I eat at The Ivy often and have encountered Fernando many times. He is always thorough in his manner and very welcoming. I am sure his TV show will be a great success.

Adam Sims said...

'Riff-raff' is a not a phrase I'd heard before so I looked it up:

What kind of a rude woman would say that to your friend?

Sounds like she was rather 'raffish' herself.

Anonymous said...

Love this article , I often cry about the fact that I didn't live during the more elegant times of yesteryear when people were expected to wear dinner jackets. Today it's perfectly normal to see men wearing caps and flip-flops at "nice restaurants! Ghastly!

-the spy-

Tony Balmforth said...

I watched part of The Restaurant Inspector the other night but could not see it through. Whilst Peire is obviously capable and successful, he lacks the genuine warmth and commitment for TV that makes this type of programme compulsive. In this regard, Alex Polizzi really raised the bar.

Matthew Steeples said...

Tony - It was the first episode. I urge you to see if Peire grows on you in future episodes.

The Spy (I think I know who you are!) - Dress codes in restaurants should be enforced more rigidly in my view as should the usage of mobile telephones. Dine with dignity.

The Bruiser said...

I prefer Gordon Ramsay's show myself. It is more hard hitting. Will watch tomorrow and see whether I change my mind.